One major concern among environmentalists and conservationists worldwide is the dwindling tiger population. In India, this concern is even greater, as the tiger is recognised as the national animal.
Current census figures suggest that there are about 1,411 tigers in India, down from more than 12,000 just a decade ago. This rapid decline in numbers is attributed to various factors, which include deforestation, resettlement of tribal folk, and forest reserve guards not being appointed to protect them.
It was obvious that the local government was not doing enough. Dainik Bhaskar decided that something needed to be done and that it needed to be done quickly. Driving home this point is the fact that two states where tigers abound (Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) are home to more than 700 – or half – of the existing tiger population.
Seeing the lack of support for this growing problem, Dainik Bhaskar decided to take a stand. In September of 2010, the news media company launched a hard-hitting editorial initiative that had two clear objectives:
- Get the government of Madhya Pradesh to declare the four tiger reserves (Bandhavgarh, Pench, Kanha and Panna) as notified buffer zones.
- Convince the government to declare the appointment of a Special Tiger Protection Force to prevent poaching.
The editorial campaign focused on getting readers involved in the tiger cause through an educational campaign that informed them about the tiger’s economic value, its role in the eco-system and food chain, its symbolic importance, etc.
During a period of five months, Dainik Bhaskar published 16 pieces to gain public recognition of the problem. This aggressive approach made the local government take the tiger issue seriously. The pieces set into motion a logical chain of thought process, which required people to be aware and involved in the cause.
The concept of a “tiger corridor,” a natural geographic connect in Madhya Pradesh, was presented to the readers, who were asked to vote by mail, e-mail, SMS or internet their views and support. The campaign was conducted in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, and included the cities of Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Raipur, Bilaspur, Bhilai, Ujjain, Ratlam and Sagar.
The campaign was more successful than could have initially been hoped for:
- Within five weeks of the campaign’s launch, the government of Madhya Pradesh declared reserves in Bandhavgarh and Pench as de-notified buffer zones.
- In December of that year, the local parliament tabled a motion to appoint a Special Tiger Protection Force with an investment of almost US$90,000 from the forest fund.
These were tremendously successful results, particularly considering that various tiger protection groups had tried to make this happen for more than five years without success.
With just one print campaign, the establishment was moved to take corrective actions and help preserve the future of this national icon.